Recent loss a rallying call for frustrated community
COMMUNITIES across the Orara Valley have expressed outrage at the loss of more mature trees in their neighbourhood.
Fed up with the ongoing clearing, a community meeting has been organised for Sunday, March 17 from 3.30pm at the Nana Glen Community Hall.
Posts and comments on a number of community Facebook pages including the Glenreagh Community page reflect the growing anger at the seemingly unregulated clearing that's taking place to make way for intensive agriculture.
"I am so sorry to have to post, but I just witnessed one of the last big Blackbutts being taken down just north of Nana Glen in the Orara Valley this morning," posted Pete Knock on February 26.
He says the recent loss has really hit a nerve: "it really feels like a rallying call to this issue. It made my blood boil."
Tania and Gerry O'Connor live nearby and are concerned at how rapidly and irreversibly the landscape of the valley is changing.
"The local council does not seem to be keeping up with the fast pace changes. It is sad to see hundred-year-old trees bulldozed," Tania said.
"When the first trees were cut across the road we contacted council who informed us there was nothing they could do."
The couple said they contacted the Environmental Protection Agency, which told them that due to the zoning, the clearing was legal.
"We are not against farming, we know we live in a rural community but the system of checks and balances seems to be out dated or non existent," Gerry said.
Julianne Ward is also frustrated and confused by the multiple layers of legislation and the different agencies tasked to uphold the laws.
In addition to the clearing she fears for her health with spray drift regularly forcing her indoors.
"I was out in my vegetable patch and all of a sudden felt sick to the stomach and my head hurt - I came inside and my daughter was at the sink washing her face as she felt it too," Julianne said.
Many of the residents have contacted Coffs Harbour City Councillor and independent candidate in the upcoming state election Sally Townley.
Dr Townley has long been an advocate for tighter controls for intensive agriculture.
"Unfortunately there is very little protection for vegetation on rural land. Landowners can, if they choose, knock down even large old growth trees such as in this incident," Dr Townley said.
"And even where vegetation laws do apply, they are complex. Sometimes even the practitioners are not able to give an immediate answer. And sometimes laws exist, such as in council's Koala Plan of Management, but they're only triggered by a development application.
"If no DA is required, the law can't be enacted. While I respect landowners' rights in general, it is sad that biodiversity values are not always considered in decision making."
Old trees have habitat value, can support insect populations which support pollination and enrich the soil around them. Removal of even small numbers of old trees can impact the local environment.
The farm owner was contacted for comment but did not return the Advocate's call.
Recent incidents in the region have sparked a similar responses including the clearing and burning of timber along the Pacific Highway near Emerald Beach.